Laura Wyatt, Preserve Program Manager, reports on a visit to the Preserve this morning: "The Preserve is gorgeous with the new snow; plan a visit soon!" The fluffy snow covers every tiny branch. Enjoy and bring your camera.
Mariah Myers, animal ecologist and naturalist at the Leopold Center, sent us another investigative report from the Frautschi Point area.
"I was at Frautschi Point yesterday and discovered a trail of downy feathers in the area of the Big Oak Trail near the open grown oak that was hit in the storm last year. All of the feathers were gray and black, none of them appeared to be flight feathers so I don't have an ID but, I would bet on a songbird like chickadee or junco. Not nearly as exciting as the crime scene from a couple of weeks ago.
In the area near the owl crime scene, there were pieces of a hornet's nest on the opposite side of the trail and a chunk of the inside of the nest like the honeycomb (not sure technical term) was next to a pile of canid scat that was in the very middle of the trail. I know the scat was there post owl massacre, I noticed it a few days after, but the hornet's nest was not there at that time. I don't think the canine had anything to do with the downed hornet's nest but, it has instilled curiosity as to what did.
Today I returned to Frautschi Point, again on the Big Oak Trail, and found more feathers that appeared to match yesterday's discovery and definitely were not there yesterday. As I was investigating the new feathers, I heard a pair of barred owls nearby. The first owl sounded like it was coming from the pines near the main trail that leads to the Frautschi Point parking lot and the responding call came from the pines near the owl crime scene from a couple of weeks ago. I proceeded to investigate and moved quickly in search of the second owl since it seemed closer and easier to get to. Sure enough, I spotted the owl in the very tree next to the crime scene! Attached is a photo of the owl who was being chastised by black-capped chickadees."
Mariah confesses that she is "a sucker for investigating and wondering about every little thing that happens." We all appreciate that. Two years ago, a pair of Barred Owls nested in this very area and produced two owlets (see photos). On Jan 23, Brian Schneider reports on e-bird that he heard Barred owls calling back and forth in the area.
The last days of 2015 brought freezing temperatures and some snow to the area, after a record warm December with temperatures more than 10° above normal. On this sunny Saturday, people were out in droves walking to the Point and on Lakeshore path, enjoying the beauty of the blue sky, the blue lake, still open, and shores outlined in white. All was bathed in the special light of the winter sun close to the southern horizon. Photos Gisela Kutzbach
Gisela Kutzbach and contributors